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Youth Sounding Boards

Programme Management Tool

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One approach to youth engagement is to establish a Youth Sounding Board (YSB)1, which is a consultative group with the purpose of providing on-going input on selected policy, strategic and implementation issues. The composition and mandate of an YSB may vary from case to case. In the following, inspiration for setting up a YSB is provided.

The establishment of a YSB can benefit programme implementation in a number of areas. Operating with a YSB will, for example, provide the Embassy with:

• access to a group of youth representatives with whom the Embassy can continuously or on an ad hoc basis
discuss and get a youth perspective on context and programme related issues,
• an opportunity to better understand the target group and the particular challenges and needs of the youth,
• a platform for direct and possibly continuous youth consultation.

The YSB will furthermore:
• validate the design of programmes and ultimately creating better programmes,
• safe-guard and strengthen young people’s voice and perspective in relation to policy and programme, formula-tion, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

YSBs can be established at different stages and at different levels within a country programme, either as an overall mecha-nism or linked to a specific thematic programme or development engagement. Depending on the stage or program level, composition and scope of the YSB mandate will vary.

An YSB established in the formulation phase can be set up with an open, explorative mandate, where the objective is to tap into the existing knowledge and experience of youth. A YSB established as part of the implementation may have a monitoring role mainly addressing programme implementation issues and it can also provide valuable input in the evaluation and closure of a program or Development Engagement (DE). Likewise, a YSB established with a national perspective may ad-dress overall national policy context issues, whereas a YSB established to follow a specific DE may have a more limited scope.

How to work with a Youth Sounding Board?
During the design and planning, i.e. formulation of a country policy, programme or development engagement, the YSB may provide youth related information on the context; i.e. first-hand information on young people’s daily lives, their challenges and aspirations, and the gaps between young people’s needs and the available resources. The YSB can be established on an ad hoc basis and the possibility of a later formalisation kept open.

During implementation and monitoring, the YSB will have a true sounding board role and may be involved in discussing activity plans, commenting on reports and mid-term review (MTR), and some youth members may be represented in moni-toring visits and MTR.

At the end of a programme or development engagement, the YSB can provide youth perspective input and
feedback on TOR and evaluation questions, as well as findings and recommendations.

The figure below demonstrates how listening to youth voices at different stages of the programme implementation cycle can provide valuable input to the work of embassies.

Sounding boards figur

If an Embassy decides to operate with an YSB, objectives and scope of the YSB, the specific tasks, selection of members and composition, as well as frequency of meetings, possible cost coverage and remuneration etc. must be clearly defined.

Further reading on Youth Sounding Boards:

Generic Terms of Reference for YSB
The following serves as inspiration for the preparation of TOR for YSBs. The specific TOR will vary depending on the intended role and scope of the YSB.2

1. Introduction
Describe the context for establishing an YSB, including the national/regional context in terms of youth population, specific youth related challenges, as well as national/regional youth policies and international conventions.

2. Objective and scope
State the objective(s) of the YSB. For example, i) to create an opportunity for young people to advice and have impact on policy, programme design and/or implementation; ii) to ensure that Danish programme interventions are effectively responding to the critical challenges and opportunities of youth, and iii) to enable the youth to continuously hold Danida to account on its commitments to youth development.

Describe the scope of the expected YSB work. For example, at which level the YSB will operate: overall country pro-gramme level, thematic programme or development engagement level.

3. Specific functions and tasks of the YSB
Describe the specific functions and tasks of the YSB in relation to the programme or development engagement.
For example:

• to advise on the impact of programmes and strategies on young people. It will provide a forum to influence decisions through offering new ideas and solutions on issues that affect young people to maximise their development gains,
• to challenge through critically examining policies, priorities, programmes and strategies from a youth perspective. It will challenge and shape strategic policies by exploring their impact on young people, investigate how the office engages with younger citizens, and pointing to areas that need to change to improve the relationship with young people in the future,
• to test if the concerns and perspectives of young people are taken into consideration in decision making, on programmes and strategies. It will test the viability of pipeline and existing programmes that are largely targeting young people,
• to ensure that young people’s voices are heard and listened to at each level and that interventions are relevant
to and help develop youth as partners and leaders in development.

State expected inputs, outputs or products of the YSB. For example: preparation to meetings, elaboration of briefs and/or minutes.

4. Selection of members
The TOR should include selection criteria for members, who will be identified and appointed by the embassy and selected among a broad range of youth relevant actors from civil society organisations, private sector, media, and research institutions with the aim of securing a broad representation. Selection criteria must be transparent and clearly documented.

Some of the issues to consider are:

• Geographical coverage to avoid dominance of a capital based elite is important to consider, when selecting participants for the YSB, but may not always be possible due to logistical constraints or may not be relevant depend-ing on the level of programme that the YSB will address.
• Gender balance and inclusion of disadvantaged youth, as well as possession of sector relevant knowledge and experience are other parameters for selection.
• Depending on the stage and/or level where the YSB is established, concerns regarding representativeness are pertinent. An YSB established at national level and expected to address national policy issues, provides input to programme implementation and monitoring and evaluation will require youth representatives with a certain educa-tional level and experience. A YSB established to follow a geographically confined DE may count on members with less educational level and a specific local and/or technical knowledge rather than a national policy experi-ence.

5. Practicalities and conditions

The TOR should determine the frequency of the meetings – quarterly of bi-annually. Length of meetings (full-day, several days etc.).

Conditions in terms of travel costs, accommodation, per diem and possible compensation should be established.

6. Budget
Include a budget with the above mentioned expected cost items and any other relevant, programme specific cost,
e.g. rent of meeting room, external speakers, entertainment etc.

Further and inspiration for TOR:
Terms of reference for 1HMG3 Ethiopia’s youth advisory panel, DFID Ethiopia, 2018.

Example: agenda for explorative YSB workshop
The following is a draft agenda which was tested in Ethipia and Mali in October 2018 with the purpose of providing youth perspectives for context analysis, identification and formulation.



Theme and questions



Theme: Introduction and ”warm up”

10 min




Explaining the task and the purpose of the meeting

15 min


Presentation round


To start knowing each other, to initiate trust building and fun

20 min


Who are youth in Ethiopia?

(method: individuals write on a flip-charts) What unites youth across the many differences?


To achieve a glimpse of how youth themselves understand the issues of diversity, marginalization and intersectionality


For youth to define potential unity aspects


Theme: Youth and the Danida thematic priorities



15 min



5 min

5 min

5 min


Growth and employment:


  1. the employment of youth in various sectors (two persons together draw up main points) with most and least opportunities for youth (method: group work)


  2. Opportunities in technology (method: plenary)


  3. Issues related to agriculture (method: plenary)


  4. Map platforms in Ethiopia promoting the interests of youth in new opportunities (method: plenary)


To tap into the understanding of youth with respect to their opportunities for employment and income and obtain information on existing initiatives


To screen particular opportunities related to sectors



To obtain information on existing networks, consortiums

and other youth structures

15 min


Peace and security:

  1. How does peace and security issues affect young people’s opportunities(two persons together, write up stickers shared on a flip chart)


  2. Discuss the peace architecture and high level policy opportunities related to youth


To understand how youth perceive that peace and security issues impact on their lives


To understand the extent to which youth see government and multilateral organisations as part of the agenda for inclusion of youth solutions challenges and gaps and, if time, suggest initiatives to address these

10 min


Social services and SRHR:

Discuss progress and remaining challenges related

to SRHR and the situation of youth in the-country (two persons together, write up stickers shared on a flip chart)


To understand how youths themselves see challenges and

gaps and, if time, suggests initiatives to address these

15 min



  1. Youth participation in elections


  2. Ethiopian youth policy - how is this helping youth?


  3. Any youth quota for youth representation?


  4. Examples of youth engagement in advocacy and

governance monitoringat national and local level?


To gain information on formal youth representation and

related policies


To understand how youths are involved in monitoring of

policies, campaigns and implementation






Theme and questions


10 min







20 min


  1. Identify and give examples of challenges and promising practices related to youth participation in the country (method: plenary - filling into a plus and minus column and voting at the end)


  2. Give examples of how to address and overcome challenges - tactics and strategies applied by various youth groups (method: group work, list on a flip chart - at the end, a score line to agree on the most effective)


To understand how youths perceive their opportunities to

participate in societal and professional areas



To understand how youths in practice, in their daily life, find ways to exercise their agency, to make themselves heart and to gain influence


Theme: The role international agencies present - including of the Danish embassy

10 min


10 min


  1. Discuss ways the international organisations can help promote youth engagement?


  2. Give two suggestions / recommendations for how the Danish embassy could help to elevate the position and opportunities of youth? (Method: two and two together, provide suggestions via stickers

+ voting to agree on the three most viable)


International agencies provide financial and technical support to the country - if and in what way do youth see these as potential supporters to youth?


How would youth in the meeting suggest that the Danish Embassy engage in youth?

1The name of such a consultative group may vary - Youth Sounding Board, Youth Advisory Panel, Youth Advisory Board, Youth Advisory Group etc. In this document, Youth Sounding Board (YSB) is applied as a generic term.

2 Inspiration for the development of this tool is from DFID Ethiopia: Terms of Reference for 1HMG Ethiopia’s youth advisory panel, n.d.

3 1HMG includes FCO, DFID, MOD, DIT and British council.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs


2 Asiatisk Plads

DK-1448 Copenhagen K


Tel. +45 33 92 00 00


In case of questions, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Global Youth Advisor, Thomas Rudebeck Eilertzen (